The Government Shutdown Means That The Violence Against Women Act Has Expired

The government shutdown officially started at midnight on Friday. In failing to agree on a spending deal that would keep the government open, the Violence Against Women Act expired and programs that helped survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault are now without funding. 

The extension of the act ran out on Friday before Congress was able to pass legislation again to protect it. According to the Washington Post, the VAWA was scheduled to expire in September, but it was temporarily extended twice. 

The Post reported that the Senate passed a resolution that extended the act’s authorization until Feb. 8 and also folded it into a spending bill. The House on Thursday passed a continuing resolution bill that also included an extension. But the deals were not approved by both chambers and the president before VAWA’s expiration deadline. This means that funding for key government agencies aiding domestic violence and sexual assault survivors lapsed. 

About 75 percent of the federal government has already been funded, but a number of government departments are without it, CNN reports. The Justice Department is part of this lapse in funding, and it also funds a bunch of programs under the act. 

The act allows funding for 25 programs, according to the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women. The programs are designed to stop violent crimes against women and to strengthen states law enforcement and criminal prosecution services. It also includes social service agencies that help sexual violence victims such as rape crisis centers, shelters and legal-assistance programs. According to Roll Call, the reauthorization of the act have expanded to reporting strategies of sexual violence on college campuses and expanding protections for LGBTQ+ individuals. 

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has been an advocate for a long-term extension of the Violence Against Women Act saying in September that, “Republicans’ decision to include only a short-term VAWA reauthorization in the must-pass minibus spending bill is nothing shorting of an abdication of our responsibilities to women in our country.” 

This is the second time that the act has lapsed in 25 years, Roll Call reports. VAWA first expired in 2011, and it wasn’t entirely reauthorized until 2013. As of right now, VAWA programs in Health and Human Services have been funded until September 2019. This means that funding for these programs administered by HHS can continue even though authorizations have expired.